Even more schools to benefit from disadvantage scheme
About 20,000 pupils will benefit as more schools are awarded extra supports under a new scheme to tackle educational disadvantage.
The Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (Deis) programme will expand next September to include about 80 more schools whose level of disadvantage is deemed to be higher than many schools already included.
About 30 of the existing 826 Deis schools will also be granted more supports than they currently receive, in order to address the severe levels of disadvantage with which they are dealing.
The names of the schools set to gain from the policy change will be announced soon. The overhaul, for which €5m has been allocated for 2017, follows a review of Deis, which has been in operation since 2005.
Education Minister Richard Bruton, who is launching the new plan today, said last night that every child had to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of their circumstances. He said that "education has a unique capacity to break down the cycles of disadvantage".
Deis currently covers about one in four of the country's schools, at both primary and post-primary level, through measures such as lower pupil-teacher ratios, additional funding and school meals.
A big difference between the new scheme and the original Deis will be a change from the approach used in 2005 in identifying participating schools, to what promises to be a "more responsive and flexible" method, which will also eliminate the need for an application process.
Assessment will be based on what is known as the HP Deprivation Index - which uses socio-economic data gathered by the Central Statistics Office, as well as other data collected by the Department of Education. Other Government departments and agencies also use the HP Index.
As well as offering a "more robust" identification process, the plan states the use of centrally held data will allow for a more effective system of resource-allocations matched to particular needs of individual schools.
All existing Deis schools will remain in the scheme for now, but, following a review of the new arrangements at the end of the 2017/18 academic year, there may be some adjustments in terms of continued participation.
It will be after this review is completed that the new model of resource allocations will be finalised.
The plan sets out more than 100 actions aimed at delivering on its objectives, including making book rental schemes mandatory in all Deis schools next September, greater prioritisation of access to school psychologist services, pilot projects aimed at introducing measures shown to work well in improving results for disadvantaged students, and priority access to leadership training for principals.
While it makes no specific promise to lower pupil-teacher ratios, it does refer to the commitment in the Programme for Government for smaller classes for pupils in junior and senior infants.
There are a range of State agencies and State-funded organisations working with schools to support those at risk of educational disadvantage, and the plan says these arrangements will be strengthened.